Blitzbokke beaten by Fiji
Kyle Brown (Gallo Images)
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
South Africa were bundled out of the Hong Kong Sevens in the cruellest manner, losing 24-19 to Fiji in sudden death after a brave performance in their quarterfinal match on Sunday.
And while the match is history now, the Blitzbokke may have a case for a refereeing error that cost them the game after Fijian David Batiratu looked to have knocked the ball on, with referee Anthony Moyes from Australia allowing play to continue. Batiratu picked up the ball and having beaten the Bok defence, which stopped to claim the knock, he ran through for the crucial score that sent Fiji through to face New Zealand in the semifinals.
Whether or not it was a knock is irrelevant now, but it was a cruel and unfortunate way for the Blitzbokke to go out of the main competition, especially after they had fought their way back from 19-12 down to score with seconds to go, and force the game into overtime.
While they beat Fiji in Las Vegas to win the title there, they have lost six out of their last seven meetings with the Sevens specialists, whose combination of pace and size overshadowed the smaller, but braver Bokke once again.
The Blitzbokke found to their peril that small mistakes cost them dearly, as every error they made was punished by a try by the Fijians.
But they did draw first blood in an unconventional way in this competition, with Cecil Afrika diving over after a lineout drive, something much more accustomed to fifteens than to the faster paced shortened game.
It was quickly negated by a counter from Seremaia Borutu, who beat a tackle easily to break the defence and score.
The Boks then turned defence into attack as first Sibusiso Sithole and captain Kyle Brown broke from a lineout in their own 22, sending Chris Dry away to score and give them a 12-7 halftime lead.
But Fiji’s class shone through in the second half, using pace and power to first send Emosi Vucago and then Nikola Matawalu over for a 19-12 lead.
With 30 seconds to go, Sithole made use of a great overlap to dart inside the defence and bring the Boks back, with Afrika slotting a massive sideline conversion to send the game into overtime.
The Boks attacked heavily in overtime, but their first mistake was punished, and after the glory of Las Vegas, they had to stomach the heartache of Hong Kong.
The Blitzbokke now move into the Plate competition, where they will face Portugal, while the other Plate semifinal is between Australia and Russia. The Plate semis start at 9.31am.
In the other Cup quarterfinals, New Zealand crushed Portugal 33-5, Samoa beat Australia 15-12 and England survived a Russian onslaught, winning 10-7.